Master Visual Arts and Photography
The work of Thomas Nolf examines the ways in which national myths are formed, instrumentalised and frequently suppressed. Confounding fiction and documentary, fabled event and scientific enigma, his work looks into how nation-building ideology influences modes of storytelling, and vice versa. Nolf handles his subjects with a close appreciation of narrative and its ambiguous relationship with veracity and considers the ways in which heritage and eroded beliefs can be re-established and repurposed.
More info about the artist.
Describe briefly the path (whether artistic or not) you have followed so far.
How would you describe your work in terms of themes, style, techniques, …?
My work is situated between different disciplines such as photography, text, performance and installation. It investigates the legitimacy and relevance of controversial history and heritage, in relation to specific political and economic contexts. My general research question is: in which way can my work implement itself in the inquiry of controversial histories and the generation of alternative truths, this in order to reinforce cultural and economic transition?
In my practice I make use of a documentary approach with –sometimes provoking– interventions in public space, performed with or without permission of local authorities. The interaction between myself as an artist, the subject and its context plays a very important role in the evolution of my work as well as the presentation of it.
An example of this approach was ‘Pitchfork’ (2016), a multimedia installation that was part of ‘Next Generation’. This was a project of Bozar (17-19 May 2016) for which I was invited to question Europe’s history and its conservation. For the installation I travelled with a group of youngsters to Croatia, where a new monument was being built in front of the enigmatic ‘Monument to the uprising of the people of Kordun’, designed by the architect Vojin Bakić.
Since 2013 I travelled regularly to Bosnia for the ‘Peculiar Artifacts’ project in Bosnia and Herzegovina –an imaginary exhibition–, where I made images of controversial artifacts and the tourist experience that goes with it. In an attempt to unveil an alternative story and, in this way to exceed the current socio-political desillusion, I got in touch with the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina and asked them to organise an exhibition about the ‘pseudo-archeological’ phenomenon. This in order to reach two objectives: (1) On the one hand I wanted to open the discussion about ‘pseudo-archeology’ in a disillusioned society and (2) on the other hand I wanted to make sure that the attendance would generate a budget for the museum that currently finds itself in a fragile economic and cultural situation.
Eventually the project was assembled in the book of the same name that was published in 2017 by APE (Art Paper Editions). The book focuses on found and own footage (documentary, manipulated and staged) with texts, dialogues and text contributions by others. On one hand it offers an insight in earlier discussed themes and their local context, on the other hand it shows the social-artistic process that has been developed over the last four years.
The book is bilingual (English and Bosnian) and was featured in (inter)national newspapers such as BalkanInsight and De Standaard. ‘A PROPOSAL TO EXTRACT K2 MEGALITH FROM THE RAVNE TUNNEL COMPLEX’ was made in relation to the project, in collaboration with Belgian artist Gauthier Oushoorn. It is exhibited during a book launch at Komplot (26-27th May 2017) in Brussels and during Atelje Figure (14th June) in Sarajevo. Furthermore, the book was nominated for the Rencontres d’Arles Photo Text Book Award.
In March 2017 I organised a group exhibition ‘LEŽERNA RAZMJENA BEZ PANIKE’ (17th March – 17th April) with Belgian artist Gauthier Oushoorn in Charlama Contemporary Art Gallery in Sarajevo. This initiative was developed together with Bosnian artist Jusuf Hadžifejzović (who lives and works in both Sarajevo and Antwerp) and is considered to be a starting point for a longterm collaboration between Belgian and Bosnian art scene. In 2018 a Bosnian exhibition is planned in Belgian, the place is still to be confirmed.
What would you consider your most important achievement (whether or not artistic) to date?
My bilingual publication ‘Peculiar Artifacts in Bosnia-and-Herzegovina – an imaginary exhibition’ and its nomination for the ‘Rencontres d’Arles Photo Text Book Award’.
Who or what has been an inspiration to your work?
Bureaucracy, myths, anecdotes, Europe, Francis Alÿs, poverty, dreams, Renzo Martens, inequality, Slavoj Zizek, Johan Grimonprez, Guillaume Bijl, anthropology, Marcel Ophüls, etc.
Which (art) disciplines other than the ones you’re familiar with, draw your attention or would you like to immerse yourself into?
To translate my work into a spatial dimension.
Describe what your focus will be during your residency in Gouvernement?
At this point of my artistic practice it is important to prepare a continuation of my project ‘Peculiar Artifacts in Bosnia and Herzegovina – an imaginary exhibition’. I consider my publication of 2017 not as a final product but rather as an intermediate step and tool to keep my objective (the idea of an exhibition) present. To be more precise, I would like to:
(1) research how to translate my work into a spatial dimension (by use of performance as well as installation).
(2) give this project a continuation by creating ‘Peculiar Artifacts in Bosnia… Part Two’ (working title). I will make use of the same method and concept only this time I will be dealing with another controversial contemporary subject: the building of real-estate projects and isolated villages by sheiks from the Middle East in and around Sarajevo . In the same way as Part One, the second part would get its place in the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, this time in the ethnological wing of the museum.
In which circumstances or environment would you consider yourself at your most creative?
How does “INTERNEN” appeal to you specifically?
I see the project as an interesting period and place to reflect upon the work I already made and to think about how I can look forward. Besides this, it would be interesting to invite speakers and researchers to converse with, exchange ideas with in order to work towards a temporary presentation.
What do you expect from a residency in terms of personal artistic development and in terms of guidance and support?
(1) Concerning ‘development and assistance’ it would be good to take my time to focus on only this research and its preparation of production. In order to do so, following circumstances would be convenient:
– A quiet place where I can work and that is easily and continuously accessible.
– The possibility to print research material and hang the material in the space.
– Since I live in Brussels, it would be nice if I could spend the night in Ghent regularly.
– Travel expenses for a possible Bosnian collaboration.
– Travel expenses for a possible exploration in Sarajevo.
(2) Concerning ‘development and assistance’ it would be good to give Gouvernement the possibility to be co-producer of the production of my second book/film.
Who (closeby/faraway, realistic/utopic, living/dead) is granted lifetime membership to your ultimate (secret) society?
Nele and David.